Roger Federer has advanced to the last four stage for the 14th time in his career and the tenth time with a 3-0 record in round robin action as he topped the Boris Becker group, while debutante Grigor Dimitrov for the second match in a row lost only two games as he topped to the Pete Sampras group also with a 3-0 record.
Joining them in the last four stage are American Jack Sock and the Belgian David Goffin who advanced with wins over the German Alexander Zverev and the Austrian Dominic Thiem, respectively, in what were virtual quarter finals. Roger Federer takes a 6-0 record in the semi finals where he will face David Goffin, while the resurgent Dimitrov trails 1-3 against his last four opponent Jack Sock.
In the first match on Thursday, the six time champion Federer, who was assured of a berth in the last four playing against the already eliminated Marin Cilic of Croatia, needed only to win one set to guarantee finishing on top of the group. He looked almost disinterested and dropped the first set in a tie-break. But facing a break point in the ninth game of the second set, he rose to the occasion and after saving the break point won eight of the last nine games to score a 6-7(5),6-4,6-1 win in one hour and fifty four minutes. He served 17 aces, faced only one break point which he saved and converted on three out of the nine opportunities against the luckless Croat who took a set in all three matches but did not register a single win. He falls to 1-7 in career meetings against Federer and is now 1-8 in three appearances at the season finale.
In the evening session on Thursday, Jack Sock who qualified for the eight man elite field at the O2 Arena after winning his maiden Masters series event in Bercy, Paris, beat the 20 year old Zverev 6-4,1-6,6-4 in one hour and fifty one minutes. Both players broke serve four times in the match and even though Sock won only 84 points against Zverev’s tally of 87, the American never looked in any danger of losing the match. Down 1-4 in the decider, the third ranked Zverev fought gallantly to level at 4-4 but the American was not to be denied as he broke in the tenth and final game to clinch a berth in the last four.
In the opening match on Friday which also was an eliminator, David Goffin who won only two games against Dimitrov on Wednesday, took out the Austrian Dominic Thiem 6-4,6-1 with surprising ease in seventy one minutes which assured him of a semi final berth. Goffin playing in his first World Tour Finals is also the first player from Belgium to qualify for the season ending finale. He ended with a 2-1 record in Pete Sampras group while Thiem was eliminated, having a 1-2 record in group matches. Likewise Sock qualified with a 2-1 record in Boris Becker group, while Zverev was eliminated with a 1-2 record.
In what was a match with only academic interest, Grigor Dimitrov, who is also making a maiden apprearance at the event and also the first Bulgarian to play at the event, for the second time in as many matches lost only two games as he brutally dismissed the Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta, 6-1,6-1. Busta who replaced the injured Rafael Nadal after the first round of matches, was playing as a first alternate after the world number one withdrew following a knee injury which he aggravated in a three set loss to Goffin on Monday.
The following is the semi final line up with my pick mentioned first :-
Roger Federer (2) v. David Goffin (7); Federer leads 6-0
Grigor Dimitrov (5) v. Jack Sock (8) ; Sock leads 3-1.
Dimitrov will end the year ranked third with a win over Sock who will rise to a career high number seven if he wins and the Belgian David Goffin loses to Roger Federer. Goffin who will lead his country in next week’s Davis Cup final against hosts France, stands to finish inside the top five for the first time in his career if he wins the title.
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: email@example.com]